If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us at (902) 423-8116 or update email address? talk [at] writers [dot] ns [dot] ca. This information is intended for a Canadian audience, and some information, especially legal information, may not apply to writers in other countries.

Agents

Do you need an agent?

Having an agent is necessary if you’d like to be published by one of the big publishing houses in Canada (Random House, McClelland & Steward, HarperCollins, Knopf, Doubleday, for example) who will only consider manuscripts submitted by an agent. This is true of some smaller, independent publishers as well though some of the independent houses will consider queries from writers directly. It is important to research these publishers’ submission guidelines and strictly adhere to them. 

Almost all Canadian publishers, and American genre publishers (e.g. mystery, romance, science fiction, horror), generally accept manuscripts directly from authors. 

How do you find an agent?

The Association of Authors' Representatives, Inc, a not-for-profit agent membership organization, requires its members to conform to a canon of ethics (e.g. "members may not charge clients or potential clients for reading and evaluating literary works and may not benefit, directly or indirectly, from the charging for such services by any other person or entity"). A list of their members can be obtained from them at P.O. Box 237201, Ansonia Station, New York, NY 10003 (send SASE) or online at http://www.aar-online.org/.

For information on Canadian literary agents, see the Writers' Union of Canada website at http://www.writersunion.ca/gp_literaryagents.asp.

How do you get an agent?

Send a letter outlining your experience and ask if they are currently accepting new clients. If they are interested, they’ll ask to see a sample of your work. After reviewing it, they'll decide if they will represent you. In the same way that you enter into a contract with a publisher, it's wise to negotiate a contract with an agent or agency: one that outlines the nature of your business understanding with each other. WFNS provides contract advice to members; make an appointment with the Executive Director (director@writers.ns.ca).link

Beware of agents who charge fees: an agent should earn commissions only and be reimbursed for agreed upon genuine business expenses, which might include manuscript retyping, photocopies, copies of books for use in the sale of other rights, long distance calls, or special messenger fees.

Awards

To find out more information on the awards that you are eligible for, please click the following links:

The Art of Launching

Your book launch should be a celebration of the fact that you not only wrote a book but that you got it published as well. It is usually up to the writer to plan the event with some financial support from the publisher. The publisher should be able to supply posters for the event and print invitations. Depending on the publisher, support may also involve press and media releases. Often, this is when a writer will be interviewed on their local radio station or newspaper. 

A successful launch combines an audience of your loyal supporters with the reading public who may be interested in your book. Deciding who your potential readers are is the first step. Is there a dominant theme to your book that could be used to market your book’s release? Budge Wilson's picture book, The Long Wait, about the disappearance of Deirdre the Cat, was launched as a fundraiser for Bide a While Animal Shelter, expanding on her already established celebrity with younger readers, for example. This kind of planning will ensure not only an audience for your launch but also create a memorable event. 

Think about the venue with that theme in mind. Is it somewhere that people like to visit? Is it easy to find? Is it on a bus route? Is there parking? Does it somehow uniquely suit the subject of your book? Jack McClelland once launched one of Pierre Berton's histories by sending Berton to the launch in a canoe that was 'floated' down Yonge Street, Toronto, in the middle of noonday traffic. If your book is about scarecrows, have some on hand. You don't need to serve your guests a lavish meal but having some fun with food and drink is a good way to warm up an audience.

Allow yourself enough advance time with this research to give all interested parties room to work with you. If you want to be listed on calendars of events, many associations will need up to two months warning. Actual invitations to readings or launches should arrive three weeks before the event, about the same time as your press release is reaching the media. PSAs should follow, and be heard and read in the days leading up to the event.

Before planning a launch or signing:

  • Target your potential market
  • If your publisher hasn’t, develop a lively, clear and concise press release. Local papers will often run a picture if you have a good one available. Larger papers are usually bound by labour agreements to use staff photographers
  • Make sure you (or your publisher) have up-to-date media lists, bookstore lists, special association lists that might have an interest in your book - professional associations, local history societies, book clubs (writers' organizations will generally assist with their distribution lists)
  • Use public service announcements (PSAs): short (30 seconds reading time), upbeat announcements that can be read over the air at local radio stations
  • Ask a local, independent bookstore to sell your books the night of your launch. Having a good relationship with your local bookstore is important. In return, they’ll keep your books in stock and will do their best to sell them

Book Tour

Writers often find themselves in the role of publicist as well as travel agent when planning their own book tours. There are many cities in Canada that host a weekly or monthly reading series and it is possible to cobble together a tour across the country with some planning and luck. Public libraries are also a good place to contact when planning a tour. 

Apply for travel allowance from the Culture Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism, Culture & Heritage if you’re eligible. Some publishers set aside money for each title they publish so that the author may tour with the book but some publisher can’t afford to. Talk to your publisher about the kind of support they can offer. 

If going across the country seems too daunting a task, plan a smaller tour in your region or province. Contact local coffee shops or art galleries as potential venues. Local libraries are also make for good reading venues. It sometimes helps to contact university English departments as well.   

Contracts

Many writers about to be published for the first time panic at the thought of signing a contract. What should you look for? What's important? Should your contract be reviewed by a lawyer?

Almost all contracts favour publishers because it's publishers who put up the money to produce and distribute the writer's work. Lawyers are usually horrified when they look at most writer's contracts. But they're not as bad as they may appear.

Most contracts coming from New York publishers or large Canadian publishers are standard. In New York, there is a considerable body of case law that protects writers. If you are signing with a large, well-known publisher, you needn't worry much. But you should know what's negotiable, and what's not. And you should look for particular clauses.

In most cases, the writer will have nothing to say about the cover of a book. A small publisher will be more willing to let the writer choose their cover art or at least have some input. Blurbs and promotion are usually in the hands of the publisher though they will often ask for suggestions about who they should approach.

Negotiable Clauses

Print Runs. Depth, the number of books published and distributed, sells. A well-known writer may be able to get guaranteed print runs. Most writers can’t. Do look for escalating royalties, however. Your royalty should increase with the number of books sold.

Subsidiary Rights. Once a publisher buys a book, that publisher becomes the agent for subsidiary rights. Usually, Canadian and American publishers buy North American rights in English. You may be able to sell Canadian publishers only Canadian rights, but to do so is not necessarily wise: the publishing company may have better connections and may be better able to sell your book to an American publishing house. You will be credited with a percentage of the sale price -- usually 80%.

American publishers need not sell subsidiary rights because they have distribution systems in Canada. In any case, you receive royalties on all sales in North America. Because of the dollar differential, American publishers pay a lower royalty rate on books sold in Canada. If you sell your book to an American publisher, be sure you get your royalties in US dollars, or in the equivalent Canadian dollars. You should be looking for 80-20 splits on all foreign sales. That is, you get 80% of the proceeds from foreign sales.

Other subsidiary rights cover everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs if your book might generate that sort of thing -- à la Sesame Street or Garfield (yes, Jim Davis does get a royalty on all those pins, badges, stationery, greeting cards, bar menus and stuffed animals) -- check your percentages carefully.

Length of time a publisher may hold a book before publishing it. Check this clause -- it should not exceed two years. If your book is not published within the time contracted, you get to keep your advance, and you should have your rights returned within 6 months of the expiry date. You should usually send a letter of notification of expiry on the date.

The Option Clause (or "right of first refusal"). This is generally a good clause for the writer. But be careful. Do not give a publisher an option on more than one book at a time. Make certain the length of time the option may be exercised is written in -- that is, the book must be either accepted or rejected in 6 to 8 weeks. If you write under more than one name, use a pen name, or publish with another publisher, be sure that exceptions are noted and the clause initialled.

Royalty Periods. Most royalty periods are 6 months apart, ending at December 31 and June 30. Usually the publisher must supply a royalty statement within 90 days of the end of the royalty period. Thus, statements and payments (if any) are due in April for the period ending December 31st, and in October for the period ending June 30. This can, and does, vary.

Royalty statements almost never disclose print runs. The first royalty statement on any book is usually an educated guess: since books can be returned for credit (in the case of paperbacks, covers are stripped and returned), no one knows how many have really been sold in the initial period. The statement for the second period should reflect reality, and may contain adjustments.

Clauses dealing with what happens if the first draft of a manuscript is unsatisfactory. Look at these clauses. You are always given the opportunity to revise, but check the length of time the publisher has to review revised material before accepting or rejecting it. Since normally you get half your advance on signing, and the remainder when the manuscript is accepted, the length of time a publisher has to accept the original or the revisions can affect your cash flow and your writing schedule. The publisher's term should not exceed 60 days.

Kill Fees. If you are doing contract work -- editing, re-writing, novelizations -- check your contract for a kill fee. If your work is for some reason unsatisfactory, or the company decides not to use it, you should still get roughly half your contracted fee.

If you don't receive statements, and you can't afford a lawyer, go to Legal Aid or a legal clinic. Have lawyers send letters, with copies to your provincial culture ministry and the appropriate federal agencies providing subsidy grants to publishers.

Don't be unreasonable, but don't be walked on either. Writers who don't insist on their rights, or who write for nothing, hurt all writers.

Copyright in Canada

Perhaps the question we most often hear at the Writers' Federation is:

How do I copyright my manuscript?

Copyright is the exclusive right to produce copies and control an original work of visual or literary art for a specified number of years. In Canada, writers and other artists possess an automatic copyright whether the work is published or not. The author (and heirs) retain the copyright for life plus fifty years. Canadian copyright law does not require writers to register copyright (more information about registration below), only to provide proof that they are the owners of the work. An author may prove ownership in any number of ways. For example, an author may mail a copy of the work to herself through registered mail. The unopened package and the registration slip will constitute proof that the work was in the possession of the author before anyone else, and is therefore her property.

Since copyright includes the right to publish or authorize to publish, writers' organizations in Canada recommend copyright never be given away! Under your agreement (contract) with your book publisher, the publisher will be given the licence to publish and distribute the work for a specified period of time. But, this does not mean the publisher owns the copyright. (Unless you sign a contract or agreement giving the copyright away).

Copyright information - above courtesy of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. Reprinted from Saskatchewan Literary Arts Handbook with permission.

The following information is reprinted from Copyright: Questions and Answers. Reprinted with permission of Consumer and Corporate Affairs Canada.

Who owns the copyright?

The author owns the copyright in his or her work unless he or she was hired or employed by some other person to create the work, in which case the employer is the owner.

How do I obtain copyright?

Copyright in Canada is automatically acquired upon creation of an original work.

Does that mean I don't have to do anything to be protected?

Nothing needs to be done to get basic protection, but you may apply for voluntary registration. Registration requires the completion of an application and submission of a fee. Upon registration a certificate is issued providing evidence that the person registered is the copyright owner.

Can copyright be sold or assigned?

Yes. The copyright may be assigned or sold in whole or in part. However, to be valid, any assignment must be in writing and be signed by the owner.

What is an ISBN number and how is one obtained?

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a number used for publishing purposes only and is not related to registration of copyright in the Copyright Office. The ISBN application form from the National Library of Canada is available online, or you can call the Canadian ISBN Agency (part of the National Library) toll-free at 1-877-896-9481 (select 1+3+1). The number identifies one title or edition of a title, from one specific publisher, and is unique to that work.

For more information about copyright contact:

Access Copyright
The Canadian Copyright Licencing Agency
1 Yonge Street, Suite 800
Toronto, ON
M5E 1E5
www.accesscopyright.ca

Events

For information on readings, book launches and conferences in Nova Scotia, click here!

Financial Assistance for Writers

The Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia does not offer funding programs to writers. WFNS has raised funds which endow prizes, awarded annually to emerging writers and published writers, and also hosts a mentorship program which enables a writer at the cusp of publication to work intensively with a senior writer. Grants to support writing are available through The Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage, Culture Division and the Canada Council for the Arts. Both the provincial department and federal agency have developed a number of funding programs to foster artistic excellence, and to encourage the development of Canadian writers - whether emerging, mid-career or established. The Nova Scotia Culture Division has two deadlines for Grants to Individual Artists (for Professional Development, Creation and Presentation): May 15 and December 15. Canada Council for the Arts has one deadline for English-language writers: October 1; and another for French-language writers: April 1.

Culture Division, Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture & Heritage

Change logo. Culture Division, PO Box 456, 1800 Argyle Street, Suite 601, Halifax, NS, B3J 2R5
Phone: 902-424 4510
Web: http://www.gov.ns.ca/tch/culture_funding.asp
Email: culture@gov.ns.ca link

The provincial funding programs include grants to individuals for professional development, research, travel, presentation and creation, and grants to organizations for production/presentation, touring and commissioning. The Nova Scotia Talent Trust (http://www.nstalenttrust.ns.ca/) awards scholarships to Nova Scotia residents undertaking programs of study to further their artistic development who are not yet established in their disciplines. Trust Deadlines are March 1 for Spring/Summer studies and May 15 for Fall/Winter studies.

Canada Council For The Arts

Writing and Publishing Section, 350 Albert Street, PO Box 1047, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5V8
Phone: 1-800-263-5588
Web: http://www.canadacouncil.ca

The federal program funds Creative Writing Grants to provide support to authors working on new projects in the fields of novel, short story, poetry, children's literature, graphic novel and literary non-fiction. Literature creation projects based on spoken word and storytelling may be submitted to the Spoken Word and Storytelling Program of the Writing and Publishing Section (April 15 deadline). Screenwriters who require funding to write a screenplay should contact the Media Arts Section of the Canada Council for the Arts. Grants are also available to Aboriginal writers and Aboriginal Emerging writers residencies.

Canada Council for the Arts also provides Travel Grants to enable writers and translators to respond to invitations on occasions that are of great importance to their career.

The Canada Council for the Arts also administers the Governor General's Literary Awards, and programs supporting book publishing, promotion and readings. CCA is also home to the Public Lending Right Commission, the agency which reimburses Canadian authors for the public lending of their eligible titles catalogued in libraries across Canada. The annual deadline for registration is May 1. Published writers should register their titles with the PLRC.

Markets

Markets for Young Writers

Publishers in this sector whom you are likely to be able to trust will indicate somewhere in their submission information that the copyright remains with the writer; that the publisher wishes to acquire only one-time, or first serial, rights; or, if web-based, that the writing will appear on the site for a specifically limited period of time; and the publisher will, generally, provide some form of modest payment - often a copy of the issue in which the work appears, or a subscription, and, in this market, only very occasionally cash. The League of Canadian Poets is a strong supporter of young poets. For more information on some of their programming and markets, visit: http://www.youngpoets.ca/ link. Teaching Authors also has an informative website with a list of markets for young writers: http://www.teachingauthors.com/p/for-young-writers.html link

Some of the journals and periodicals currently accepting writing by children and young adults are:

  • Stone Soup
  • Creative Kids check site, strange content (?)
  • Skipping Stones: An International Multicultural Magazine
  • New Moon Publishing (especially for girls aged 8 to 14)
  • Re:verse link: The League of Canadian Poets’ zine for young poets 
  • Teens Now Talk needs new link: http://www.teensnowtalk.com/tnt/home is a new Halifax-based magazine, written by teens for teens, available online and in print

Periodicals

A list of periodicals can be found here.

Publishers

A list of publishers can be found here.

Self-Publishing Your Work

Why self-publish?

WFNS strongly recommends that writers consider working with a publishing company before committing to the time-consuming, often expensive labour of being their own publisher. However, for some projects self-publishing is a natural fit, especially those books unlikely to have a large enough market to be picked up by a mainstream publisher. These might include geneologies; family, church or regional histories; personal memoirs; experimental writing; and poetry chapbooks. Self-publishing is becoming a more popular choice considering the great many options now available.

Is it vanity publishing?

No. Vanity publishing is paying a publisher to publish your work for you. WFNS recommends against vanity publishing - it's expensive, and vanity publishers do no promotion of their titles because they are essentially printers. If getting your work printed is important to you, then this is an option though not the most cost efficient one.

Draw up a business plan.

Self-publishing can be expensive. If you're only planning a print run of 50 copies of your chapbook to give away to friends, and you're doing it on a photocopier, you can probably pay your costs without any planning; however, if you're printing a book to sell to the public, you'll need to be sure you can meet your expenses. Think carefully about how you're financing your project, and draw up a business plan: how many books will you need to sell in order to break even or make a profit? How much should your book cost? How much will it cost to produce? What are your other expenses?

At this time, there are no grants or other funding for self-publishers, but associations can sometimes get funding for projects, or find it in their existing budget. Can you interest an association in your project? Sponsorship may pave the way to publication. Remember, any association you work with will want something in return - possibly a percentage of gross profits, or maybe simple (but prominent) recognition on the book itself.

Possible costs include: your time, type-setting, editing, permissions for quotations, proofreading, barcoding, printing and binding, distributing, publicity, selling, handling and storage.

Talk to other self-publishers about problems they encountered and challenges they overcame. You can meet self-publishers wherever they might be promoting their books, as well as in internet forums and chat groups.

Get an ISBN and barcode

An International Standard Book Number is a unique identifier for your title - no two books are given the same number. This helps avoid confusion between titles with similar or identical names. To obtain an ISBN number, publishers must apply using the Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS) http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/isn/041011-1010-e.html. link 

Visit: http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/isbn/apply.html?execution=e1s1 for more information. (link) You can also obtain an ISBN by calling 1-866-578-7777 (select 1 + 7 + 3). ISBNs are free to Canadian publishers and are issued in 10 days.

The Canadian ISBN Agency does not provide barcodes. Publishers are advised to speak with their printer about barcodes, or to search their local yellow pages for barcode providers. Please note, you will need an ISBN to obtain a barcode.

Don't forget Cataloguing in Publication (CIP)

CIP is a voluntary program of cooperation between publishers and libraries, which enables book cataloguing before publication, and prompt distribution of this cataloging information to booksellers and libraries. The Canadian CIP program is coordinated by the National Library of Canada, and their CIP form is available online http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/cip/index-e.html link. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) also offers publishers several convenient ways of sending their online publications to LAC for inclusion in its Electronic Collection. For more information, visit: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/electroniccollection/003008-220-e.html link

Consider the Law

Register your copyright. Copyright is the right to copy the whole or any portion of a work, and is owned by the creator and his or her estate for the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years (70 in the US and Europe); after that, the work goes into the public domain. You own copyright immediately upon creation, without registration, but registration is an additional protection for you. If you were publishing your book with a publishing company, they would register copyright; as the publisher, you do this yourself. Register with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

Does your book include long passages from other books, song lyrics, or other quotations? Unless they're in the public domain, you'll need permission to use them. Seeking permissions may involve a lot of digging. Talk to Access Copyright (the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency) if you can't locate the owner of the copyright; in cases where rights holders just can't be found, CanCopy is authorized to issue a license in their place.

Registering with Access Copyright http://www.accesscopyright.ca/creators/ link will mean you'll be paid whenever they find your works copied under one of their licenses. Through their licensing framework, Access Copyright provides users with access to valuable content while passing the royalties on to creators. Registration for this service is free and you will receive royalties when your works are copied and reported to Access Copyright. Become eligible for PaybackTM (click here http://www.accesscopyright.ca/creators/payback-for-writers-and-payback-for-visual-artists link for more info)

Does your book include real people? Avoid privacy infringement and libel by only writing about real people who you’ve received permission from to do so. Even if your subjects have died, their families may still object.

Consider professional editing, design, indexing and proofreading

Editing can make the difference between a polished, readable book and a book with embarrassing typos and mistakes. If possible, hire a professional editor (talk to the Editors' Association of Canada). If you just can't afford it, get a friend or colleague with an good grasp of grammar and language to go over your book. Don't do your own editing. Even the best writers need another set of eyes to spot their errors.

Likewise, think about hiring a freelance designer. Design includes typeface, type size, paper stock, the size and number of pages, layout and cover design. Some books don't require anything fancy, and basic desktop publishing programs can fulfill their needs. Other books benefit from innovative or careful design.

Many libraries won't buy non-fiction that lacks an index. The Indexing and Abstracting Society http://www.indexers.ca/  link of Canada has members nation-wide.

Proofreading is looking for typographical errors, and is done after the layout and design (which can sometimes introduce errors into the manuscript). Again, this is too important to be done yourself; have a sharp-eyed, spelling and grammar-savvy friend or colleague examine the typeset copy carefully for errors. Of, if you can afford it, hire a professional.

Plan distribution

Set up your distribution before printing your book. Bookstores will often sell books on commission (generally they'll want 40% of the cover price) but many bookstores do not work with individuals, preferring to keep things simple by working with only a handful of distributing companies. You may want to pay a book distributor to distribute your book for you.

Investigate selling your book through other channels. If your book would be of interest to tourists, consider selling through local gift shops or at farmers’ markets. If it's related to a charity, consider getting them to help you sell it in return for a portion of the profits - we know of a writer who sold her romance novel as a fundraiser through a national heart foundation. Be creative in considering who can help you sell your book.

If you sell through mail order, don't forget to include the packing and postage costs in your business plan.

Plan publicity

Plan your publicity before going through the printing process, too. The best book in the world will never sell if nobody hears about it. Can you persuade a bookstore or other outlet to set up an autographing session? How about a book launch? Can you arrange to give talks at libraries, clubs and schools? Can you get radio, television, or even print interviews?

Many magazines and newspapers have book reviewers, who will need a free copy of your book in order to review it. Plan to give away some of your books to reviewers. Some places will not review your book, but will be happy to use the information in a news release. Be sure to send a news release ("Local Author Releases Book on History of Town") to your local paper as well as any media who might pick up the story. Press releases can be sent by email.

You may also want to investigate paid advertising, though most writers find that this does not pay off in terms of sales.

Print your book

Choosing the right printer to print and bind your book is very important. The process will be easier if you have carefully thought out your design and budget. Check the prices and work of several printers. Consider getting printing done elsewhere; sometimes the cost of shipping the books is less than the savings from having an out-of-province or out-of-country printer do the job. Request quotes for the job.

Put your book on legal deposit

In accordance with the National Library Act, a copy of your book should be deposited with the National Library of Canada. "Legal Deposit” is the means by which a comprehensive national collection is gathered together as a record of the nation's published heritage and development. Canadian publishers are required to send two copies of all the books, pamphlets, serial publications, microforms, spoken word sound recordings, video recordings, electronic publications issued in physical formats (CD-ROM, CD-I, computer diskette, etc.), and one copy of musical sound recordings and multimedia kits they publish, to the National Library of Canada." Contact them atlegal.deposit@lac-bac.gc.ca for more information.

Sell, Sell, Sell

Get out there and promote your book. Remember to keep meticulous records for the Canada Revenue Agency and remember as well to charge the correct amount of taxes (books are exempt from the HST but are subject to federal tax). While you’re having fun with this, start thinking of writing your next book.

Submitting Your Work

Submitting your work: Poetry, Short Fiction, Short Non-fiction, Fiction Book Query, Non-fiction Book Proposal, Picture Book, Romance, Science Fiction

Taxes and Professional Writers

Reasonable expectation of profit would be enough to dissuade any rational being from ever putting pen to paper, but it is the gambit the Canada Revenue Agency introduces to any conversation it has with working artists. They even write chatty information bulletins (available online at www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/. Click on Forms and Publications and follow to IT504R2) with details of what they will consider when pondering whether you're a writer or a hobbyist. Mitigating factors include the amount of time you devoted to writing, the extent to which your work is available, whether you're represented by a publisher or agent, your membership in professional associations, the type of expenditures as well as your historical record of annual profits or losses relevant to the exploitation of your work. CRA clearly acknowledges that "the nature of art and literature is such that a considerable period of time may pass before an artist or writer becomes established and profitable. Although the existence of a reasonable expectation of profit is relevant in determining the deductibility of losses, in the case of artists and writers, it is recognized that a longer period of time may be required in establishing that such reasonable expectation does exist".

The argument for reasonable expectation of profit is certainly more plausible if you look as if you have a well organized office with business-like books and records. Trying to rely on your memory of what that scrunched-up, year-old receipt purchased is not the best approach and won't amuse the taxman. What you don't know, can indeed hurt you. Keep personal and business receipts separate, sorting them into carefully itemized categories:

  • Professional fees and dues
  • Agency commissions
  • Automobile: if using a personal vehicle, keep a travel log; track all gas and maintenance/repair expenses, parking fees and tolls; jot down distances travelled... and whether for business or personal reasons. Pro-rate the costs if you've managed to combine business with pleasure.
  • Office: you won't be able to make a successful case for a corner of the kitchen table where you dusted off the toast crumbs and set up the laptop. You may, however, deduct - on a pro-rated scale based on the square footage - the cost of a space set aside exclusively to house your office (electricity, heat, cleaning supplies, insurance, property taxes), or, if you rent, a portion of that rent. It gets infinitely more complicated if you want to carry forward a loss or look for a capital cost allowance, so you may wish to refer to helpful bulletin IT-514, Work Space in Home Expenses.
  • Supplies: supplies include: paper, pens, paper clips, staplers as well as computer software; photocopying; shipping and postage; legal and professional services; books, films, videos, dvds, magazines and papers for research; website development and hosting; telephone, fax and internet charges; clerical services; gifts and greeting cards; advertising and promotion.
  • Equipment purchases: cell phone, fax machine, computer if used exclusively for your business, or the applicable portion thereof.
  • Meals and entertainment: 50% of business incurred meals and entertainment may be deducted but be reasonable. Pigs get fed; hogs, slaughtered.

To switch from expenses to earnings - where and on what income tax form line do you include Access Copyright payments? Access Copyright issues T5-A slips which means this income is not business but investment income. Report it on line 120 of the Income Tax Form; Schedule 4 Statement of Investment Income must also be filed with the completed tax form.

Public Lending Right payments must be reported as income, regardless of whether or not you receive a T-4A slip. The PLRC only issues T4-A slips for $500 or more. When completing you tax return, the PLR payment should be attributed to "PLRC/Canada Council".

We all know that we live in a self-assessing tax system. When you declare an expense it must have been incurred for the purpose of earning income and be reasonable to be deducted. Remember, you must be prepared to justify both the reasonable nature and purpose of that expense should you win the random assessment lottery. Exercise prudence, as "the sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related that it is difficult to class them separately."

Writing Groups: Pros, Cons, and How to Start One

Perhaps the most frequent question we get at WFNS is the lonely plaint, "Is there a writing group I can join?". There are dozens of writing groups meeting today all over the country. Some specialize: there are the romance writers; several concentrate on poetry, prose or children's writing; some are long-standing and wary of changing the chemistry by welcoming "unknowns"; some like the energy a new member brings. Many have taken their impetus from a shared workshop experience: when the formal workshop ended, several writers felt an affinity with each other and continued to meet.

A good writing group can help prevent you from becoming static through an exchange of ideas and the exploration of new techniques. For beginning writers, group meetings can provide a deadline and the discipline of writing regularly. For more established writers, support is often most needed after publication, when new problems arise, when that awful or wonderful review needs to be shared, when professional questions would benefit from the exchange of information with peers. However, a writing group is only as good as the members, only as healthy and strong as the people involved.

Structuring the group thoughtfully can create a powerful tool for peer mentoring. It's important to begin with a clear sense of your shared goals. This can be as simple as "getting professionally published". Yours will be a very different group from one which wishes simply to share community stories, say. A long-term commitment to the group is important, and is likely if you select writers with a similar commitment. Where to find these paragons? Place a thoughtfully worded ad in Eastword or in WFNS’s weekly e-loop; take a workshop and get to know your fellow writers; ask around at libraries or  local bookstore.

Set clear ground rules:

  • Set specific goals as a group and discuss these early on. Individual members may also wish to set personal goals.
  • Agree on a meeting space conducive to work. While the social element may be important, getting to the business at hand is as well and this should be kept in mind. Alternate bringing snacks to the meeting: this takes the pressure off any single host and makes the meeting more enjoyable.
  • Set a clear schedule and program. A good writers group will require its members to share a selected amount of their writing which will be presented on a regular basis.
  • Decide on a size for the group. If you're too small, the illness of a member may create chaos with regular meetings; too large, and you won't have time to read and discuss everyone's work in a timely fashion.
  • Time is a precious resource: group members should agree to be on time; to write regularly; to produce work as scheduled; and to be strict about time allotted to discussion on work during a meeting.
  • Commit your ground rules to paper so current and new members will know what to expect.

It takes time for trust to grow and develop. It has to be earned. You may find that reading each other's work in advance helps you to be more thoughtful and thorough with feedback. A group must be a safe place to try out new ideas and present work that's very much in-progress. No group member should feel the need to apologize for, or be embarrassed by the work.

Although there is no substitute for time spent sitting on a chair and writing, a well-constructed writing group may be a powerful tool in sustaining your writing muscles. Methods that work well for one may not work for another group. Experiment. Find out what works for you and your group and stick with it.